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Red Hat Software Businesses GNU is Not Unix

Red Hat License Challenged 391

Posted by michael
from the challenge-is-good dept.
An anonymous reader writes: "David McNett has noticed an apparent discrepancy between the Red Hat Linux EULA and the GPL. He has written an open letter to the FSF asking for their opinion on the matter. Does Red Hat have the right to "audit your facilities and records" to ensure compliance with their license?" McNett misreads the Red Hat documents. Their contract is for the various services, not the software, and for the services they are entitled to demand whatever concessions they think the market will bear.
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Red Hat License Challenged

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  • I love /. (Score:5, Funny)

    by gergi (220700) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:23AM (#6180539)
    So now the /. editors are posting stories that they are going to immediately refute and say isn't a story at all? I love this place :).

    More amazing is that this story will generate hundreds of comments.
    • Re:I love /. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jim Hall (2985) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:27AM (#6180566) Homepage

      You immediately got modded down (was "1, Offtopic" when I looked at it, now "-1, Offtopic" when I clicked "Reply"). I probably will be too, but I wanted to say I agree with you.

      What is it with the editors? They posted an article like "here's some news, but don't bother reading it because the guy is wrong". Come on, guys!

    • by somethingwicked (260651) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:51AM (#6180738)
      What's wrong with saying-

      "Okay, here's a story that you will prob see all over your favorite Free Software Slanted News Sites today. Here's what's wrong with it..."

      The title says it all really: They are EDITORS. Not gatekeepers that post stories only, they have a staggering ability to actually add there own text. *yawn*

      I see them taken to task often (and rightfully so) for posting dupes, unchecked links, etc...and they deserve the hassles on that stuff

      Don't agree with his editorializing? Cool thing about /. is your can post your own reply AND other people actually READ them! Try that at your favorite newspaper site

  • by Zog The Undeniable (632031) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:24AM (#6180549)
    ...commenting on this story, since the editors have already done it for us? Must be a slow day ;-)
  • Well... (Score:4, Funny)

    by FoxIVX (104861) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:25AM (#6180556)
    At least things are getting more efficient around here. The editors are posting bogus news stories, then retracting them themselves before someone points it out. I call that progress!
    • And remember...If your not moving Forward, your moving Backward.

    • Re:Well... (Score:3, Funny)

      by jmv (93421)
      Yeh, still trying to figure out what is new in that. It's like: "Cure for Cancer discovered! No in fact, it doesn't work. Never mind.".
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by will_die (586523) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:35AM (#6180634) Homepage
      But it does give them a better track record then the New York Times.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JanneM (7445) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:48AM (#6180717) Homepage
      The news is somebody worrying about the redhat EULA and taking their interpretation to FSF for an opinion. The comment by michael is just that - a comment, not a retraction or whatever.
      • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by intnsred (199771)
        The news is somebody worrying about the redhat EULA and taking their interpretation to FSF for an opinion.

        Agreed. Plus for folks like me -- someone who uses Debian and not Red Hat -- I was shocked to learn that Red Hat would be doing audits on anyone. I mean, isn't that a huge reason people want to use Linux in the first place?
        • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DeputySpade (458056)
          Not the people who buy Advanced Server (to which that service agreement is attached.)

          They are the very same people who slurp up MS products year after year, crappy revision after crappy revision. The folks like you and me who don't like the MS eula might switch to Linux to avoid it, but we wouldn't be choosing Red Hat Advanced Server. In any case, RH is interested in making sure you aren't trying to get them to support more machines than you have paid for since this is only a support agreement. They are
    • Will it still qualify as progress when it gets posted again tomorrow, without the immediate rebuttal? :?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:26AM (#6180558)
    ... they are entitled to demand whatever concessions they think the market will bear.

    Gee, when Microsoft (and other "bad" companies) does that kind of thing, everyone here gets upset. I wonder why that is.
    • It's not about that being a good or bad thing, it's about the fact that they actually *can*. Since, well, they *can*. I'm sure everybody would get upset when Red Hat'd pull some crazy Microsoftish stunt. It's just that Microsoft has a little more power that makes it slightly more upsetting.
    • by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:47AM (#6180709)
      RedHat doesnt have anywhere close to a monopoly on any market that it produces products for.

      Microsoft has monopolies (ones that have been found guilt of illegally maintaining, even) in several markets.
      • by tshak (173364) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:50AM (#6182421) Homepage
        *yawn*. Typical /. "monopoly == you can't do anything" mentality. Having a monopoly does not put your business in handcuffs, it has certain, specific, and limited restrictions on what you can do as a business. Auditing customers for license compliance, amongst other things, are not reserved for companies with a small marketshare.
    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      The difference is, you can choose to buy (or download) Linux from another distributor. Who, besides Microsoft, sells Windows?

    • WTF? He didn't say it was a good thing, just that the submitter was misinterpreting the situation and that it had nothing to do with the GPL.

      Why is the parent modded "Insightful"?

      Furthermore, /. is not a gelatinous blob of people all of the same mind...

    • Well, notwithstanding the differences between Red Hat and their licenses versus Microsoft and their licenses, there is a point hidden in that comment.

      Frankly I think the concept of "whatever concessions they think the market will bear" is one that ultimately damages consumers and capitalism. Within that concept is the implication that the concessions are a -burden- that the consumer must carry if they want to use the product. "What the market will bear" implies finding that point at which the burden is j
      • I complete agree with the gist of your comment. "Entitled" is perhaps a poor choice of words here; what I meant was something like "is not forbidden by the GPL or anything else", or as you suggested, "is legal to do". I was trying to get at the "screw the customer" vibe by mentioning the "whatever the market will bear" phrase, which is capitalism's slogan.

        Whether Red Hat's is a good/moral/healthy business practice or not is a separate question from whether it is forbidden. It has often been stated that
      • Yes. "What the market will bear" does imply finding the point at which the burden is just shy of driving customers away. You think of this burden as a level of abuse, but another term for it is "price". Part of the price may be monetary, part of it may be agreement to terms set out by the company.

        Don't take Microsoft for instance. They are extremely atypical. Take Random Company X for instance. They don't "take" more and more concessions. They don't "abuse the customer" more and more. They offer a
  • sounds resonable?

    What more is there to say?
  • by iainl (136759) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:28AM (#6180577)
    The problem with Services contracts for Linux boxes is that you're allowed to install as many machines as you want (obviously - its GPL software). When clients only take out a service contract for some of their machines, then they have to have a certain amount of cover in their contracts to deal with the fact that you can pretty much guarantee that, out of the 5 servers you have, its always the one with the Service Contract that has the problem.

    Creative server registering of this type has been catching them out for a while, so they are trying to minimise it with that change.
    • Yes, but they dont make this fact clear and thus it's what is causing the trouble and uproar. This fact is not CLEARLY defined and can be interpeted in an overly broad manner. THIS is the basis for the gripe against the terms and conditions.

      They want to force redhat to write these things clearly or completely remove them from the OS documentation and only allow them to say such scumbag things in the contract for the services.

      I understand redhat's position on this but it was written very poorly and any EUL
      • Yes, but they dont make this fact clear and thus it's what is causing the trouble and uproar. This fact is not CLEARLY defined and can be interpeted in an overly broad manner.

        4. REPORTING AND AUDIT. If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Server.

        Seems pretty clear to me. You are not allowed to do any installations that you don't purhase "support" for.

        A pretty clear violation of the GP
        • You are not allowed to do any installations that you don't purhase "support" for.

          A pretty clear violation of the GPL (restricting redistribution) there.
          Or, put another way, your service contract is invalid if you exercise your right to install on more machines that you have a service contract for. You can go ahead and install it, but your service contract terminates. Does that violate the GPL? I doubt it.
    • There's one thing about any legal document: if it's impossible to enforce, it shouldn't exist. A services contract like the one Red Hat uses is guaranteed to create more trouble than it's worth. Why not make a contract valid for a certain amount of services, such as solving a number of problems? A good Linux contract, IMHO, would contain a list of the types of problems they would solve, and a number of calls allowed, one call per problem solved.
      • Maybe because it will make the cost of maintaining a server impossible to project, and accountants don't like that. A contract that promises to maintain n servers for x dollars for a year can be more attractive to a client than a contract that promises to fix m problems for x dollars, even if the average number of problems experienced by n servers over a year is m.
      • Actually, it is enforceable, or nearly.

        I don't know whether they implement this or not, but when your computer calls them for service, they could download a registration key. The service agreement is for the computer with the registration key installed. No key, no active service agreement.

        Now I can't say whether this is a good thing, or a bad thing, but if I understand properly, all it's saying is that you can't get service on more machines than you have service contracts for. And that *sounds* fair.

        T
    • Another issue with "come in and audit" provisions is that it's completely out of the question for many businesses. Are you a military contractor using Linux in a backroom situation? Can't have folks visiting your secure facility. Are you a financial institution using Linux in just about any capacity at all? Can't have external audits of almost any kind.

      Overbearing EULAs cost Linux companies dearly. Adoption of new technologies is often driven by "see what you can do" pilot programs in the military,

  • by haydenth (588730) <`ude.usm' `ta' `htnedyah'> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:28AM (#6180581)
    At first when I read this headline, it scared me, especially with all the SCO stuff going on, its getting harder for me to explain to my bosses how the Linux licensing works and what is going on.
  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AVee (557523) <slashdot@aveBLUEe.org minus berry> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:31AM (#6180599) Homepage
    McNett misreads the Red Hat documents. Their contract is for the various services, not the software, and for the services they are entitled to demand whatever concessions they think the market will bear.

    Then why is it news?
    End why is it that all the legal stuf seems to have become so important in the Open-Source/Unix® world. Can't we just go on and write interesting programs and good code?

    Move along people, there's nothing to see here...
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zapman (2662) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:48AM (#6180716)

      End why is it that all the legal stuf seems to have become so important in the Open-Source/Unix® world.

      {sigh} You obviously havn't been around the Unix wolrd for very long. The unix world has been beset by hideous legal issues since at least the early 80s:

      Just who owns the unix trademark? I can think of at least 5 different owners.

      The BSD 4.4 -> BSD Lite stupidity that stopped the *BSD's cold for at least a year (without that, it's quite possible that /. would be a BSD focused forum)

      IIRC, there were several Xwindows legal challenges, OpenWin never came to fruition, etc, etc, etc

      and those are just the ones I can think of on a couple hours of sleep.

  • FSF = oracle? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:31AM (#6180600) Homepage
    Why should the FSF be able to interpret Red Hat's inconsistent licensing terms? Wouldn't it be more natural to natural to ask Red Hat for a clarification first?
    • Why should the FSF be able to interpret Red Hat's inconsistent licensing terms?

      He asked the FSF because it owns much of the code Red Hat is distributing, and it has experience pursuing infringement.

  • That's weird... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tdvaughan (582870)
    So, by charging for their services they're able to use a license that relates to their clients' use of the software? How is that different from licensing the actual software?
    • Re:That's weird... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Orblivion (548121)
      The argument is that you can download and install all the open source parts of RH advanced server under the GPL without ever agreeing to this EULA.

      The interesting side effect of all this is that you are free to run as many copies of RHAS as you want until you buy even one copy. Once you 'taint' your company with even one fully licensed and supported copy of RHAS, you have agreed to this per-server licensing, and audits to make sure that you have enough licenses to cover all of your servers.

      This may viola
      • Re:That's weird... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JanneM (7445) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:53AM (#6180749) Homepage
        Um, no. It's all about the service contract, not the software. If you aren't compliant, then your service sontract with redhat is invalid. You can happily continue to use the software all you want, but you're not entitled to their corporate support anymore.

        As GPL does not say anything about service and support, there is no conflict whatsoever.
  • Michael is right .. (Score:3, Informative)

    by MoonFog (586818) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:33AM (#6180619)
    From the EULA:
    "If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Server."
    Clearly, they are talking about the services, but I agree with the above posters, why post this as news if the letter itself is bogus ?
    He also says:
    Along these lines, simply installing GNU/Linux binds me to the following "extensions" to the GPL
    But .. I didn't think you could add elements to the GPL and still call it a GPL license .. ?
  • Not so fast... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:34AM (#6180624)
    Actually, I see his point.

    RH is saying that if you signup one of your servers to participate in their support services, that they have a right to audit your site (which may be ok), but they seem to imply that if you have 5 other RH servers (that arent participating in their services), they have a right to backbill you (with penalty) as if those servers were participating.

    Now, maybe its legally ok for them to ask you to agree to this - but it does seem at quesition wether its 'ethical', and how they can reconcile that with the GPL.

    I would definately be interested to read the FSF's response when they publish it.
    • Re:Not so fast... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GrenDel Fuego (2558)
      The problem isn't with "5 other RH servers", it's with 5 other server running RH Advanced Server that aren't covered by the service contract.

      You can have as many machines as you want running other Redhat versions, but you aren't allowed to install RHAS on more machines than you have service contracts for.

      http://www.redhat.com/licenses/rhlas_us.html

      "If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Ser
      • You can have as many machines as you want running other Redhat versions, but you aren't allowed to install RHAS on more machines than you have service contracts for.

        I'm not allowed? Assuming on the other servers for which I have no service agreement I install only the Free software packages from RHAS, Red Hat can't tell me I'm not allowed to do that.

        Red Hat certainly can refuse to provide support for those other servers. But that's all they can do.

        Your interpretation does sound right. Their license

        • I'm not allowed? Assuming on the other servers for which I have no service agreement I install only the Free software packages from RHAS, Red Hat can't tell me I'm not allowed to do that.

          When you sign up for the service contract with Redhat, the contract states that you will not install their binaries on servers you do not have service contracts on.

          While the GPL allows you to install on as many systems as you'd like, you'll be in breach of that service contract, and you lose service on the machines you h
    • The reall problem is with unethical people buying a contract for one server and have 5 and then keep switching which server the contract is really for.

      The license wording is meant to give RH a legal leg to enforce peopel to pay for the service they are using.
    • Re:Not so fast... (Score:4, Informative)

      by zerocool^ (112121) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:05AM (#6181322) Homepage Journal
      they have a right to backbill you (with penalty) as if those servers were participating.


      I disagree. What if I want support for 1 machine, but I have 4 machines running their OS. I should either:

      1.) be able to buy one support licence and bind it to the one computer that I want to have support, and thus if any other of the computers break, I'm SOL, or

      2.) Buy one licence, and the first one that breaks, use it for that computer, and then bind it to that computer permanantly (if I'm sneaky).

      Analogy: You go out to buy a DVD player, but the store is running a Buy-One-Get-Two-Free. Your budget allows for one DVD player and one extended warranty. So, you buy one DVD player and one extended warranty. But, you take the two free ones anyway, and put them in different rooms of your house. You should have a right to designate the one in the living room as the "purchased" player with the extended warranty, and the other two - if they break, oh well, you're out of luck. They were free anyway.

      But the electronics store sure as hell doesn't have the right to bust up into your house and examine the number of DVD players you have so that they can demand you pay backpayment for 2 more extended warranties.

      This is a similar situation to the Kazaa problem. A situation which could have legitimate uses, but that also has non-legit uses. Buying one software pack and one licence, but putting the software on multiple computers, has legitimate uses, as long as you understand that you can only get support for one computer. Mabey you wanted to try it out on a non-production machine, or something.
      But it also can obviously be misused. You can buy 10 licences and put the software on 100 computers and expect RH to do 10 x the support.

      The problem people are having is that redhat is assuming that you're using it for bad. Same as MPAA/divx rippers, Direct TV/smart card programmers, RIAA/Cd burners, AT&T/Wiener whistles, etc etc. It puts redhat in the category with the other people we don't like.

      The solution is simple. Stop using redhat. Redhat is the windows of linux, anyway. I mean, we use it at work, cause it's what people want, but if someone asks for debian/gentoo/freebsd/whatever, we're more than happy to accomidate them. I'm really worried that redhat is no longer going to be supporting plain old redhat 7.3 anymore, since it was the last one that was useable in a webserver environment. It's rediculous that they switched to 9.0, glibc changes aside. I hope they're going to be supporting back to 7.3 for a while, considering it's only slightly more than a year old.

      And I really feel that the redhat advanced server is BS. I mean, I think it exists to market a product to CTO's that expect software to cost a lot of money. If you expect to pay $1000 for your OS, redhat can accomidate you. But what happened to the whole "give the os away, sell the service" model? What if I want redhat advanced server, which in theory is mostly GPL'd, and one would assume that the differences in the software on the distro's are based on / compiled against GPL'd libraries? What if I want it, and I understand that I won't get support. What if I don't want support? What if I can't afford support? Shouldn't I have access to free software (beer and speech), as long as I'm willing to be my own support?

      I dunno. I guess I'm proud of redhat bringing linux to the masses, and of them trying to be a profitable company, but mabey this just goes to show, in order to be profitable in this marketplace, you have to use the same strongarm techniques and high prices as everyone that we don't like.

      ~Will

      • But what happened to the whole "give the os away, sell the service" model?

        What do you think Advanced Server is? Its a service model. Part of this service is fairly obvious - support for your installed environment. But there are also other aspects of service. Creating and packaging binaries. Testing and certifying an environment so that other developers (like Oracle) have a stable target they feel comfortable developing for.


        What if I want redhat advanced server, which in theory is mostly GPL'

  • I remember a Red Hat that forced TrollTech to GPL QT. I remember a RedHat that preferred PostgreSQL over MySQL, voicing a preference for standards compliance. I remember a RedHat that never buckled to the pressue to include a proprietary YAST, and who made Anaconda open source.

    What has happened to Red Hat? Where did my favorite UNIX distribution go? I want it back!

    • by CountBrass (590228) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @08:16AM (#6180891)

      Here's a suggestion: read the story and the sources before commenting ? Even try reading the story posted at the top.

      If you did, you would realise that this is to stop customer's abusing their service contract with RH. Shock, horror, customer's abusing a contract, surely not!

      Here's how it works. I install 50 copies of RH on my servers. I take out a service contract for just one of them with RH. Guess which is the server that always seems to have the problems....

      RH's licence change for it's *services* stops that abuse.

      • But the problem is that update support is considered to be part of the service contract. To ge updates you need a service contract, and once you have a service contract you lose some of the core rights the GPL gives you (namly distribution.) If this is legal then the GPL simply has no teeth. Let me give you an example.

        Let's say I touch up openoffice and combine it with a replacement for MS Access. All of the software I've used is GPL, so I'll have to leave my product under the GPL license. Let's say
  • Relevant quandry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ioldanach (88584) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:35AM (#6180631)
    "If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Server."

    His relevant quandry seems to be:

    "During the term of this Agreement and for one (1) year thereafter,

    Customer expressly grants to Red Hat the right to audit Customer's facilities and records from time to time in order to verify Customer's compliance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement"

    And like the editor says, that's for the support services. If you want support, you pay for each server. If you're signed up for support for 3 boxes, RedHat has the right to come in and make sure you're running 3 boxes, not 6. Otherwise, they're going to charge you a support fee for 6.

    • That'll teach me not to preview first...

      His relevant quandry seems to be:

      "If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Server."

      "During the term of this Agreement and for one (1) year thereafter, Customer expressly grants to Red Hat the right to audit Customer's facilities and records from time to time in order to verify Customer's compliance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement"

      • Why should they be able to charge that company/person/whatever for 6 machines? As long as only those 3 machines have the support deal, why should Red Hat be allowed to rack down on something that you legally can download from their site and install to your hearts content?

        Only if the OS that is install on the additional machines are "this can only be installed if you have support".
        • by sabaco (92171)
          Because their license (for their support product) states "If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Server." (emphasis added) They are saying that if the Customer wants to install the Software on additional Systems, they will purchase additional Services (aka support) for each additional Installed Server. Just to clarify, an "Installed Server" is not the same as a System which also has Services
  • Right on (Score:4, Funny)

    by bahamat (187909) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:35AM (#6180636) Homepage
    Way to go Michael, for publicly spanking that boy.

    This could have easily been relegated to "not news" since it's apparent that McNett simply misunderstood. But I'm all for public humiliation, especially here on /. where we all can ridicule him for his mistake.
  • by Frightened_Turtle (592418) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @07:36AM (#6180639)
    Well, assuming I read his letter correctly, Red Hat states that the set up of their system, which is based on Linux, is copywrited. Sort of like the difference between a Ford pickup truck and a Dodge pickup truck. We all know what a pickup truck is, so the styling between the two is apparently what is covered. Perhaps this is the concept Red Hat is drawing on.

    But I guess the question is, when adding a second server to the system, does this count as violation of the license? When I buy a pickup truck, I can modify it in any way I feel like -- but I will void the warranty on the truck. This means that I can't get free work done should something fail, because that failure could be caused by one of the modifications I made.

    The GPL pretty well allows users to modify whatever they want, so long as they share what they did with the public. But if you created an application that can be run in a GPLed environment, but is not actually part of it, I would assume that this application is to be considered your intellectual property and therefore you can place your own licensing on it.

    So- Does Red Hat have any proprietary code in there? I guess in such an event, they could demand that you purchase more licenses for the extra servers you want to add. But if not, then I guess all they could do is claim you voided the warranty, and declare you inelligable for any tech support or warrantied upgrades.

    But, that's just my opinion. I think I'll leave this for the legally-experienced to hack out.
    • I just read Ioldanach's comment which posted ahead of my own posting, and I think my own comment is incorrect. I hadn't thought of the one-license-per-machine licensing. I was thinking along the lines of changing what was in my system. So I think I'm a bit off the mark here.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is more like buying 2 pickup trucks, one with an extended warrenty, and one with out, and trying to use the *single* warrenty on both vehicles.
    • The GPL pretty well allows users to modify whatever they want, so long as they share what they did with the public.

      That's wrong! The GPL only applies when you redistribute the software, but you're not forced to do that.

  • What is it with all the recent spate of legal troubles involve Linux, Unix, SCO, Red Hat, Linus, etc? There are a lot of Slashdot items about this in the past couple of weeks.

    Was this going on all the time before, but I did not know about it?

    Is Microsoft no longer the biggest threat to the Linux community, having been usurped by infighting with rabid attorneys?
  • Didn't SCO do the same thing?
  • Regarding audits (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pofy (471469)
    I always found it strange. Basically an audit would be the equivalence of searching ones house/person/car/other property. The only ones usually allowed to do so is the police and they need a warrent and/or at least a suspicion of some sort of crime (this may depend on country of course). This is something ONLY the police are allowed to do, that is, no one else can demand to do it for any reason, so that means you can't put into a contract that someone should be allowed to search you, your house, whatever as
    • Re:Regarding audits (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zeriel (670422)
      As far as I understand, audits as a contract stipulation are perfectly legal as long as they're worked out in advance and agreed by both parties.

      Hostile audits (BSA tactics) are or ought be illegal, but contractually-stipulated audits are the same thing as me saying to you "I give you permission to come into my house and look around at some future date of your choosing." There is nothing inherently legal about that.

      Now, if you show up at the door without me agreeing and demand to search the place, THAT'S
  • by mccalli (323026) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @08:00AM (#6180786) Homepage
    Specifically, here are the clauses he's bringing to attention (reproduced from the article):

    • "If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Server."

      Pardon? I can't install the product without purchasing additional services from RedHat...?

    • "During the term of this Agreement and for one (1) year thereafter, Customer expressly grants to Red Hat the right to audit Customer's facilities and records from time to time in order to verify Customer's compliance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement"

      OK - so Red Hat can come in and check I'm not claiming their services for more installations than they authorised their services for. Entirely reasonable. However, "terms and conditions of this Agreement" include the contentious point above, which is certainly not agreeable to.

    Not being a RedHat Enterprise customer, I don't have a copy of the license to hand. To any that do: is the term 'Installed Server' defined anywhere? If so, what is the definition please? If it's just a server with an installation of the code on it, then there would appear to be a problem. If the definition is along the lines of 'a server with an installation for which services are also being claimed', then there would appear to be no problem.

    Anyone able to clarify that?

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • You can in fact view the agreement online [redhat.com] on redhat's site. They define "Installed Systems" as the number of Systems on which Customer installs the Software.

      In this context, it seems that there may be a problem. IANAL (unlike our slashdot editors aparently), but to me this seems contradictory.

      You might also notice that their "Subscription Agreement" contains the following text:

      This Subscription Agreement (the "Agreement") is between Red Hat, Inc. ("Red Hat") and any purchaser or user ("Customer") of Re

    • It seems that Red Hat wants it to work this way:

      If you're not paying for a service contract, you can install as many copies of advanced server as you want.

      If you ARE paying for a service contract, you have to pay for a contract on all your advanced server machines so as to avoid unethical customers magically changing which machine out of five has the service contract at any one time.

      Clear?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      First, it is obvious most posters aren't reading the full article.

      Secondly, unless the /. Editors were making anonymous postings to the article their apparent comments about it being a 'service contract' were made by posters to the article.

      Thirdly, most posters aren't consulting the GPL:

      I noticed that a response from 'anonymous' explains "McNett misreads the Red Hat documents. Their contract is for the various services, not the software, and for the services they are entitled to demand whatever concessi

      • And me... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mikeee (137160)
        Redhat seems to be saying that if I buy a copy of Redhat AS with a support contract, I lose my right to install AS on a second server (without paying Redhat more). How can that not be a GPL violation?
  • by Theovon (109752) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @08:20AM (#6180938)
    People complain about Slashdot staff being stilly for posting an article which they immediately retract. Those people don't get it.

    Not to say that Slashdot is necessarily good journalism, but a good journalist cares about presenting the truth to the reader. (I guess there aren't many good journalists in the world.) In this case, we have someone with an open letter who is passing misinformation. Slashdot editors take this opportunity to publically point out the error in the article in an equally (if not moreso) open manner. This helps everyone.

    Slashdot did a good thing.
  • by sabaco (92171) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @08:55AM (#6181243) Homepage Journal

    First, unlike the slashdot editors, ;) IANAL. That said, I'm fairly sure a lot of people aren't reading this, and haven't looked at the RHEL license. As if they ever do. ;) (The letter mentioned in the article is only concerned with RH Enterprise Linux versions by the way, and the clauses do not appear in the other versions as far as I could see.) Really though there are some serious points here. I'd suggest that everyone who is really interested in this should go look at the license agreements online on Red Hat's site [redhat.com]. Some other people have already quoted some of it, but I'll give a brief summary here of the questionable parts.

    This Subscription Agreement (the "Agreement") is between Red Hat, Inc. ("Red Hat") and any purchaser or user ("Customer") of Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS (or Red Hat Linux Advanced Server), Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES or Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS (collectively, "Red Hat Enterprise Linux" or "the Software").

    PLEASE READ THIS AGREEMENT CAREFULLY BEFORE PURCHASING OR USING RED HAT ENTERPRISE LINUX. BY USING OR PURCHASING RED HAT ENTERPRISE LINUX, CUSTOMER SIGNIFIES ITS ASSENT TO THIS AGREEMENT. IF YOU ARE ACTING ON BEHALF OF AN ENTITY, THEN YOU REPRESENT THAT YOU HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO ENTER INTO THIS AGREEMENT ON BEHALF OF THAT ENTITY. IF CUSTOMER DOES NOT ACCEPT THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT, THEN IT MUST NOT USE OR PURCHASE RED HAT ENTERPRISE LINUX.

    Read that carefully. (just like it says! heh) It says that if you do not agree to the Subscription Agreement then you must not use RHEL. It doesn't say you can't use RHEN or Red Hat Support Services, it says you can not use Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

    If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed System, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed System.

    Here it says clearly, if you want to install RHEL on additional systems, you must purchase support for each system from Red Hat. Notice that it uses the term "Installed System" which it has already defined as "the hardware on which the Software is installed" and the Software was defined in the first part to mean RHEL in general. It does not mention RHEN or support services. It is strictly defined as hardware that has RHEL installed on it.

    The Agreement also goes on to talk about various auditing and fines for not buying support for all your systems, but it looks like we've pretty much already gotten to the primary problems I think. If you use RHEL (which is licensed under the Gnu GPL) and you haven't purchased support, you are in violation of the Agreement. Then again, I don't see how the Agreement can be valid, since it places additional restrictions on the use of the software, which is prohibited by the Gnu GPL.

    • You cannot impose any restrictions on the redistribution of GPL software. "Redistribution" can be defined as to another entity, or to yourself. Just as you cannot force royalties on top of GPL software, you cannot force contract agreements on it either. If you try to do this, the GPL still holds effect, basically invalidating any use of the software altogether.

      It really seems that RHAT is violating the GPL here. This is a serious issue, one that RHAT should clarify and correct immediately.
    • This only applies if you have purchased support services from Red Hat. If you download the software and install it, without any support services from Red Hat, then none of this applies. So it is not a general restriction on the software itself, but on the service. If you purchase support services from Red Hat, then you must purchase support services for every server you have (to avoid people purchasing it for one server and then always claiming the problem is on that 1 server, not the 30 others they have
  • From the article:

    "If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed Servers, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed Server."

    The simplest solution is to not buy ANY services from Redhat at all. Linux is free, after all. And part of that freedom includes not having to be locked in with some service supplier dictating what you can or cannot do. Training oneself to be able to administer Linux and the software on it is not that difficult a task; I

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:07AM (#6181336)
    Software (quote): 'This Subscription Agreement (the "Agreement") is between Red Hat, Inc. ("Red Hat") and any purchaser or user ("Customer") of Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS (or Red Hat Linux Advanced Server), Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES or Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS (collectively, "Red Hat Enterprise Linux" or "the Software").'
    Installed Services (quote): 'The term "Installed Systems" means the number of Systems on which Customer installs the Software.'

    So Installed Systems applies only to the systems that have "the Software" which they explicitly define as specific ENTERPRISE packages. These packages include "services". If a person does not want "services" they can get a non entreprise version and install it whereever to their heart's content.
  • by smyle (108107) <Hutson.Kyle@ g m a i l.com> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:14AM (#6181406)
    ...is that if you're buying RedHat support for only "some" of your servers, be sure your other servers use another distro.

    Hmmm... I don't think that's what RedHat wants, but it seems to be the end result. I would think that they would come up with some scheme to label "THIS" box as the one that's suppored rather than sending their customers elsewhere.

  • Let's see, we don't have enough press about issues such as SCO suing IBM, Open Something or other suing Apple, SCO is going to revoke a piece of paper from IBM that isn't supposed to be revokable.

    Now some self taught someone in the middle of the US has decided to point out something that is apparently not worth pointing out to make a name for himself or something?

    Anyone ready to bring SUSE into the limelight of 'something is wrong with the license' type of issue?

    Come one, we need to get Linux and the wor
  • If I remember correctly, RHEL has a 5 year lifetime. RedHat will be support it for 5 years. I think the wording must be changed. I do not think the wording they use is legal. I think it should be noted that RedHat will not support RHEL if you do not get support. (bug fixes, and the other services that make RHEL critical app ready. (an enterprise size oracle database etc) I believe you should be able to install it as many times as you like, but you just won't get the license agreement that RedHat stam
  • and to other BSD operating systems. The major players in the Linux community (RH and SuSE) seem to be moving away from the free software model (where they only get paid for the "bundle" of utilities and applications plus the installation sequence). RH has moved to a model in which they've bundled "services" but then have created a pricing structure in which the services cannot be separated from the software.

    I don't see how they can justify this pricing under the GPL but the next question is, "who is going to sue Red Hat?" The most likely outcome if RH doesn't change their licensing is that they will try to sue a customer and the court will then decide if they have the grounds under the GPL to do that.

    Maybe the EFF should buy one license and then install it on a dozen machines and let RH know what they've done. That should be interesting.

    It also seems to me that both RH and SuSE have been making their inexpensive distros less and less suitable for use in a server environment (focusing on the desktop). We do a lot of server installs and with the advent of the workstation focus in Linux last year I began changing to FreeBSD where I'll stay until the SCO thing is over and/or I need to do something that only Linux will do.
  • IANAL... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nugget (7382) <nugget@distributed.net> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:31AM (#6182209) Homepage
    I am not a laywer. Nor am I embarassed by having been confused by these documents. They *are* confusing, as is evidenced by the spectrum of commentary we're now seeing here on slashdot.

    Neither is michael a lawyer, which is why I sent my email requesting clarification to the FSF and not Slashdot, but that's neither here nor there. I welcome the additional exposure of my confusion to other people who may be able to provide a meaningful analysis.

    I do not agree that the EULA and additional license cover only the services side of Red Hat's offering. In fact, to my eye the read exactly the opposite -- expressly disallowing the installation of the Red Hat product in the absence of a matching service agreement. These documents would appear to me to be specifically denying me the ability to install the software without buying services. I do not believe that the GPL permits such subversion and I am unconvinced that Red Hat has found a loophole that allows this sort of restriction on usage.

    Even if they have found a loophole in the GPL, I think that most would agree that such restrictions on usage are not in keeping with the spirit of the GPL and I am very interested in hearing the FSF's opinion on the matter.

    Thanks for all the feedback, those who provided reasoned commentary.
  • by thogard (43403) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:49AM (#6182408) Homepage
    The GPL doesn't give you lots of rights you may think you have. It does give you lots of rights to be able to recreate the program and fix bugs in it and then distribute thouse changes but thats where it ends.

    For example, DMCA may restrict your ability to reverse engineer a GPLed program. Its an odd situation since you have source but if the license says you can't reverse engineer it, then you can't and you can get fined (via being sued DMCA style) if you do.

    There are other rights as well that may or may not exist. For example, if you send in a patch to a common program. Do you own the copyright on that or does someone else? If you find your code got used illegally, can you do anything about it or must you go back to the main copyright holder to file an action?

    GPL gives you additional rights but only in the context of copyright law as it was a decade ago. The license does have conflicts with the DMCA and other newer laws that have not been tested in a court.

    GNU is working on a new version of the license but the work will take a long time and be quite expensive.
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @11:22AM (#6182783) Homepage Journal
    Is the Redhat license in conflict with the GPL? I don't know and don't have the time, or legal credentials, to tell you.

    What I see is a "free software" advocate raising a ruckus because he has found a clause that may require that he buy one copy of RedHat's Advanced Server (now called Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS) Linux for each PC on which he installs it.

    Now this isn't a run-of-the-mill version of Linux designed for use on desktop PCs. It's described by RedHat as the "ultimate solution for large departmental and datacenter servers." Heaven forbid that a corporation which operates large departmental and datacenter servers has to pay for a version of Linux tailored to those applications!

    A large segment of the Linux community seems hell-bent on using GPL to insure that no Linux vendor ever be able to devise a sustainable, viable business model. It's at times like these that I really appreciate the BSD license.

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